HS Hydrological Sciences
The 2013 Division Outstanding Young Scientist Award is awarded to Gabriele Villarini for innovative studies in the field of remote sensing of rainfall, flood prediction, and hydroclimatological trend analysis.
Gabriele Villarini’s significant scientific contributions to hydrology have clearly established him as an outstanding young scientist. His innovations in the field of remote sensing of rainfall, flood prediction and hydroclimatological trend analysis are poised to transform research and practice of hazard mitigation and adaptation across spatial and temporal scales. Villarini’s PhD thesis, completed in 2008 at the University of Iowa, was comprehensive collection of studies of rainfall estimation uncertainties. The focus was on radar-rainfall estimation errors but the scope includes related issues of characterisation of small-scale variability of rainfall, sampling uncertainties by rain gauge networks, and implication of radar-rainfall uncertainties for various applications of radar data. These included scientific studies of rainfall characterisation in space and time, evaluation of space-based methods of precipitation estimation, and flash-flood forecasting in support of decision making. All in all, Villarini has published 16 journal articles from his graduate work, an unprecedented feat in our field.
In 2008, Villarini joined the Hydrometeorology Research Group at Princeton University as a Willis Post-Doctoral Fellow. The core of his research at Princeton concerned flood hydrology, with particular emphasis on the examination of non-stationarity in the flood peak and associated hydroclimatological records. He has completed high-impact studies of trends in flood peaks and Atlantic Basin tropical cyclones. This research, leveraging innovative use of data, analytical methods, and computational models, has provided valuable insights to problems of high societal and scientific relevance. In addition, he has tackled issues related to scale-based properties of flood peaks, examination of extreme value theory and hydroclimatological characterisations of flood distributions. By using a combination of discharge and rainfall data, he was able to examine the impact of urbanisation on flood hydrology and develop novel methodologies for flood frequency analysis of non-stationary time series. Villarini will continue his impressive research as a faculty member of the University of Iowa, which he joined in June 2012.
In conclusion, Villarini’s work has been instrumental in changing the way the scientific community uses and validates remote sensing products, analyses flood data, and seeks causal links between atmospheric and land surface processes, and flood genesis. These qualities make him an outstanding young scientific leader today, with great promise for the near and distant future.